Executives from EIR program speaking to students in classroom.In spring 2020, Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics debuted the Executive in Residence program, which gives students the opportunity to connect with successful professional mentors, many of them alumni, who lead in the Southern California business community.

Seven mentors – Scott Coler ’85; Mike Groff ’78; Barbara Kelley ’84; Joseph Moderow Sr. ’70; Linh Nguyen ’98, ’17; Richard Ramsey; and Julie Virjee – rapidly shifted to online formats when the coronavirus shutdown began in March, ensuring that the Mihaylo College juniors, seniors and graduate students in the program received the best possible experience regardless of the circumstances. Mihaylo College donor and supporter Paul Folino provided mentoring in a seminar to students in the Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) program.

Four of the students participating in the spring 2020 program share their experiences as mentees:

Javier Munoz

Javier Munoz

Javier Munoz ’20: A Dreamer Rises Above

Finance student Javier Munoz studied at a community college as a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before transferring to Cal State Fullerton to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“I came as an undocumented child to this country from Mexico, but that does not mean I couldn’t reach higher,” he says.

Munoz was mentored by Groff, the retired head of Toyota Financial Services.

“The most interesting thing about the experience was that I gained a friendship out of it and a real mentor who cares for my success,” says Munoz. “He [Groff] has opened himself up to really help and guide me through the process. At rough times during the semester, thinking back on his advice would motivate me to perform even with a stressful load and with the COVID-19 circumstances changing everything. I really appreciated receiving advice in confusing situations during the pandemic and when I had challenges with colleagues. His genuine interest in my success is something special, and he made himself available to me over the phone during the pandemic. I know that even though I have finished the program, I still have a great mentor in my life and someone to look up to.”

Analleli Penaloza ’21: Preparing for Long-term Success

Analleli Penaloza

Analleli Penaloza

Marketing junior Analleli Penaloza, a first-generation college student, looked ahead to the opportunity of professional mentoring through the Executive in Residence program.

“I was looking forward to someone to give me advice that would help me succeed in the long run,” the intern for Titan Athletics says.

Penaloza was impressed by her experience as a mentee to Nguyen, who is vice president of Advance Beauty College.

“I was expecting to get paired with a mentor who understood my career interests and would give me advice to navigate life as a college student. This experience exceeded my expectations for the EIR program,” says Penaloza. “My mentor made my experience worthwhile. She was very understanding of my personal, academic and professional goals and was always attentive during our meetings. She always gave the best advice and provided me with a lot of resources.”

Nguyen’s support of Penaloza during the the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly impactful.

“She was completely understanding of the situations and struggles I faced, even in my personal life. She was able to answer any questions I had and helped me set goals and work toward reaching them,” says Penaloza. “Linh took time out of her day to help me learn about resources, even though she did not have to.”

Nayeli Vazquez ’21: Gaining Applied Experience in the Accounting Field

Nayeli Vazquez

Nayeli Vazquez

Accounting and information systems junior Nayeli Vazquez was part of the initial cohort of Executive in Residence mentees, benefiting from Kelley’s expertise.

“I was expecting to have a mentor who would advise, motivate and guide me throughout the semester. My expectations were exceeded by my mentor Barbara Kelley,” says Vazquez, who is an accounting and finance intern at Parker Hannifin, a Fortune 250 company. “She was constantly checking up on me to see where I was mentally, especially during this difficult time. I was reassured by her and I felt comfortable sharing and building a relationship with her. She was attentive to my career and personal goals and would offer me resources to help me reach my goals. She made me realize that successful executives like herself are human beings and come from similar backgrounds as us.”

Kristyn Wakimoto ’20: A Beauty Stylist Prepares for Her Future

Kristyn Wakimoto

Kristyn Wakimoto

Spring 2020 was the final semester for Kristyn Wakimoto, who studied business analytics at Mihaylo College. For more than six years, she has worked as a hairstylist but looked forward to a career change upon earning her bachelor’s degree. She recognized the Executive in Residence program as a way to develop personally and professionally and position herself for a rewarding career.

“When I found out about the Executive in Residence program, I was immediately drawn to Linh Nguyen and her background in the beauty industry. When I applied for this program, I was unsure about continuing my career in hair or pursuing a different path,” says Wakimoto. “This program was a great opportunity to network and speak with a high-level executive who had a similar career path as mine.”

Wakimoto adds that lifelong lessons gained from the mentoring program will be impactful: “Prior to this experience, I had never spoken with any kind of higher-level executive before and was quite frightened by the idea of it because I consider myself an introvert. Nonetheless, Ms. Nguyen coached me to improve my leadership and speaking skills throughout our biweekly interactions. I learned how to present myself with confidence in front of top executives. Since then, I have reached out and networked with many leaders in the industry.”

Wakimoto encourages her fellow Titans to pursue the Executive in Residence program as it becomes available in future semesters.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to network with a top-level executive, who is willing to help you grow as a leader. Take this opportunity while you have the chance because once you graduate, there won’t be many chances like this. It is vital to take advantage of all the resources that Mihaylo College has to offer while you’re a student!”

For More on the Executive in Residence Program

The Executive in Residence program is seeking a new cohort of student mentees, along with mentors from the Southern California business community willing to invest in the next generation of leaders.

Students can soon apply through the program’s website.

If you’re a potential mentor, connect with Paul Stover, senior director of development, at pstover@fullerton.edu or 657-278-2857.